Last view from the window

Sydney \ 03-02-2016

I recently moved to another place in another suburb. While it′s a nice place, its view can′t compete with that of my old studio. Before I handed in my access card, I took this panorama photo as the last token of my stay there.

Wedding

St Albans, NSW \ 23-01-2016

Together with my girlfriend, I attended a wedding. There was enough time to take a quick snapshot of this nice combination of colours.

View on UTS from USyd

Sydney \ 29-10-2015

I went to an event held at the University of Sydney, on its 19th-century campus. As it lies slightly higher than the surrounding area, it offers nice views of the nearby suburbs, including the taller buildings of UTS further down the road.

Memories of games

Nirn \ 08-10-2015
This post was originally placed on Materialising Memories but put here for archival reasons as well.

Most of us who have followed a story felt attachment to the main characters. Maybe you yelled at the puppet show as a kid to warn them of the character in the dark who was about to knock, or you revelled in the danger and you felt a little empty after the story was over. Such feelings of attachment can be even stronger when you take up the role of the character, that is, to become the one who knocks, or jumps, or solves puzzles, and saves the dragon. Yes, kids, save the dragon. Rescuing the damsel in distress is so yesteryear.

The avatars we play may not be us. But in some games we get a lot of options to tune the avatar to our liking, and perhaps play a bit with our own understanding of our identity. They may look better, behave far better, or act as indiscriminate rogues, and you may think of them as more dateable than you are. Despite differences between the virtual world and real life (here on earth dragons are merely some sunbathing lizards), in-game experiences can transfer beyond the fantasy realm into everyday life and contribute to our understanding of ourselves. This touches upon our project interests, because we do have memories of those experiences.

In fact, those memories pop up in everyday life. A recent study by Poels, IJsselsteijn, and de Kort (2014) surveyed players of the online role-playing game World of Warcraft to see in what way the game influenced the thinking and dreaming of frequent players. They indeed found evidence for elements of the game to play a role in daydreaming and mundane thoughts. Additionally, their results indicated that objects in normal life may remind people of their virtual exploits. Unfortunately no examples of such objects and thoughts were included. It would have been interesting to see how real things relate to experiences in another realm. We do not need to wear our ‘Epic Hat of Uncertain Principles′ to reminisce about experiences we had while wearing that hat.

Three years ago I started to take screenshots of a game I was playing at the time, the role-playing fantasy game Skyrim. I thought it strange that we do photograph a day trip to a theme park, but not keep evidence of the countless hours we spend in an elaborate fantasy world. Perhaps we are too busy just being entertained by the game, or perhaps it is a social stigma to not show those unfettered glimpses into what we really prefer for enjoyment. After all, there is something of us in the choices we made for an avatar, even if it’s just to explore an alter ego. For example, a fairly large proportion of men play as female characters and certainly not always in skimpy, revealing outfits as you may expect. Similar experimenting happens the other way around as well. Maybe it is exactly this playing with identity that keeps it separate from our idea of who we are, and therefore any screenshots do not end up in a visual narrative of our life.

Yet, here I am writing this because I did take some screenshots that ended up alongside my other, personal pictures. Looking over my photos, there was no distinction between my life and that of my game characters.

My Skyrim game character Cruela
One of the screenshots I took more than a year ago. Yes, that is my beloved character named Cruela with whom I spent somewhere close to 270 hours in-game. Make of that what you will.

This leaves me with a few questions. Do people capture any visual material from in-game experiences? Do they construct a narrative to go along with it? To what extent does that story relate to their real lives? Do they ever look back? If they do look back, is it ever shared with others? I wonder. For a games industry that builds on giving us enjoyable experiences, obtainable achievements, and in MMO’s also some amount of social status, seemingly little flows over into our everyday lives when it comes to remembering all those things.

While the actual gaming experience and avatars used to attain those are perhaps under-represented in the publicly observable realm of memory-supporting media, cosplay has seen quite a bit of popularity in the past decades. Cosplay, or dressing up as your favourite game, comic, movie, or series hero, is a way of expressing fandom through often elaborate self-made costumes. Even though doing so does not express the personal experiences of playing a game or watching fiction, it does indicate the cosplayer was in some way infatuated with that piece of popular culture and not afraid to show it.

Looking into personal memories of gaming and other forms of fandom provides a nice bridge between media studies and the study of everyday remembering. Would you be willing to share your stories? And do you consider those part of your personal past?

Spice Alley

Sydney \ 19-09-2015

A new outdoor eatery opened nearby the campus. It is trying very hard to come across as an East Asian-style food hawker alley, including referencing the inspirational areas by name, photographs, and mural paintings. The food is fine, though.

Empty road

Sydney \ 22-08-2015

A road running through a new area in Sydney′s centre, still sheltered from daily traffic until the area opens up to the public. I took the picture the weekend its public was opened.

Shelly Beach

Manly \ 07-06-2015

A quick picture that I took during a walk near Manly, here seen in the distance from Shelly Beach.

CHI 2015 paper video preview

MM lab \ 09-04-2015
This post was originally placed on Materialising Memories but put here for archival reasons as well.

Ahead of the 2015 CHI conference in Seoul, Korea (coming up later this month), I made a short video preview to go along with a 10-page paper titled ‘Things That Make Us Reminisce: Everyday Memory Cues as Opportunities for Interaction Design.’ It’s only 30 seconds and can be seen below.

Behind the scenes

It takes a surprisingly long time to make a short video like this. It took me about a full working day, including the editing, adding overlays, and exporting the final result. So here’s a bit on the making of, including tens of cast members, hundreds of extras, and a couple of undisciplined dragons.

Just kidding.

First up, the setting. I wanted a home-like environment for the video, with enough light to get a good image, plus an environment that would be quiet enough to get a decent audio recording. Eventually, I settled on using my own studio apartment as I would have everything on hand there. The clear downside is, of course, having to use my bed and empty wall as the enigmatic backdrop for my narration. Rather than doing just a voice over I decided to show myself, tell why the paper is relevant, and show a bit of our method. As such, the video is more of a teaser from an information point of view.

I faced a few challenges in getting my video recorded. With only myself on deck (all the others ended up hunting loose dragons), how to hold my camera phone steady? I have another still camera that mounts onto my tripod, so I opted to tie my phone to the bigger camera with elastic cord. A voice recorder was placed on my office chair just outside camera view, with a notepad acting as my cue sheet. I couldn’t actually read my script this way, so it took quite a few takes to get it right (I would make a bad actor). The desire to wear decent clothes while the room temperature reflected the heat and humidity of an Australian Summer didn’t help things either. I had to take a few breaks to cool down, and yes, it does explain my expression during the first second or two.

Camera with phone strapped on
I felt sad for the old camera, as it was merely used as a surface for my phone to be strapped onto. With some elastic rope.

The method section was filmed in our MM lab, with the diaries and other snippets and pieces from the analysis spread out along a table. I stood behind the camera, did the diary browsing, and then panned the camera to get the other items recorded. Later, in editing the footage was sped up. The rest of the footage was cut to fit only the most important bits within the limit of thirty seconds. Finally, I added the text overlays and a blur and vignetting effect to move the focus away from the somewhat lacklustre setting.

Looking back, there are a few things I’d like to improve about my little video. The location isn’t great, and I feel I could get more information into the thirty seconds. Perhaps I could have shot a couple of things that made people reminisce for an introduction, and only briefly show how we got there with our diaries. It seems I need to get another paper accepted to put these ideas to the test!

The actual paper presentation will be during a session titled ‘Digital Collections, Practice & Legacy’ on Thursday, 23 April, starting at 9:30 in Room E1/E2. If you happen to be at CHI 2015, come and have a look.

ANZAC bridge

Sydney \ 03-04-2015

Nachtelijke blik op een bekende brug in Sydney. De foto is genomen tijdens een barbecue in een park.

Lake Parramatta

North Parramatta \ 22-02-2015

Het is even geleden dat ik hier iets geplaatst heb. Dus bij deze een kiekje van een meertje 25km ten westen van het centrum van Sydney, nabij de voorstad Parramatta. De foto is gemaakt tijdens een wandeling om het meer heen.